How two counties are building smarter cities (with platforms they already have)

As regular readers know, the Smart Cities Council strongly recommends that cities and other local jurisdictions collaborate with each other on smart city projects. The story below offers a great illustration of how productive and cost-effective those partnerships coupled with an experienced, willing technology partner can be. — Doug Peeples


Essex and Hertfordshire county governments adopted wireless street light controls from Council Global Lead Partner Telensa early on. They're already realizing the economic benefit of lower operating costs from reduced energy consumption and more efficient maintenance. That initial success led the two county councils to trial additional smart city services as their street lighting networks are being deployed.

And here's why
Essex and Hertfordshire county leaders say their low-power wide area network (LPWAN) have paid for themselves and will continue to keep operating costs lower because of their energy efficiency and reduced maintenance needs, according to an article in Computer Weekly.

Now the counties are embarking on pilot projects to evaluate monitoring services available via the street lighting networks that could benefit citizens and make their communities safer, more livable and more cost-efficient.

They're looking at three locations in Essex and Hertfordshire communities for the pilot projects which will initially run for two months, according to a Telensa news release.

The trials they're considering include:

  • Street drain monitoring, which would provide immediate alerts and predict problems before flooding occurs
  • Highway wind monitoring would alert highway crews of high winds and gusts and help them collect data that would allow them to predict hazardous driving conditions
  • Traffic monitoring and analytics would provide benefits such as dimming street lights on roads that aren't being used and analysis of local traffic patterns
  • Trash bin monitoring is an effective way to keep streets cleaner because city crews would know when and where they need to be emptied and where they may need more bins
  • Air quality monitoring with sensors that provide street-by-street measurements to augment data collected from existing monitoring stations

Ian Grundy, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways, sees the good that could come from the projects. "I am extremely excited about the benefits this trial offers by using technology to deliver more for less for our residents. We currently rely on inspections and residents reporting issues, like blocked gullies (street drains), to us across more than 5,000 miles of roads in Essex. The potential to monitor issues remotely will not only save taxpayers money, it will also improve our reaction times and allow us to fix issues before they become a problem," he explained.

Grundy added that even more services could be added, such as Wi-Fi hotspots and devices that would enable the county to better accommodate driverless cars.

And speaking of saving taxpayers' money, adding those new services through the street lighting networks would cost far less than implementing them as stand-alone projects. Also, the data collected through those monitoring services would enable the counties to identify trends in their operations that could help officials make better, more informed decisions.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.